Transit Action Network (TAN)

Advocates for Improved and Expanded Transit in the Kansas City Region.

EPA in the Lenexa Corporate Wilderness-update

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 9, 2011

As we reported in our recent article GSA and EPA Make a Bad Move, the current owner of the EPA building in Kansas City, Kansas, Urban America, protested the GSA bid process to the Government Accountability Office Bid Protest Forum. The GAO has published the results of that case. Urban America filed the case under the address name of 901 North 5th Street, LLC. To no ones surprise Urban America lost and the EPA will be moving to Lenexa.

We feel so sorry for the EPA employees. This location site is awful, even if you drive. It is in the middle of nowhere in the far western suburbs of the region. The building is so far back from the street that you can barely see it at the end of the huge parking lot. They certainly aren’t going to walk to lunch or take transit to work. Walking down these busy streets would be dangerous since so many of them don’t have sidewalks.  These pictures were taken about half way into the parking lot.

Here is the short version of the result. The decision was made in two parts, both in favor of the GSA.

DIGEST

 1.  Protest that agency’s evaluation and selection decision were flawed is denied where the record shows that both the evaluation and the resulting selection decision were reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation factors.

 2.  Protest that agency failed to comply with terms of Executive Order 12072 is dismissed; our Office does not normally review allegations of an agency’s failure to comply with executive branch policies.

See the complete GAO decisions. GAO Decision 901_NORTH_FIFTH_STREET__LLC vs GSA

In the report the GAO explains that Executive Order 12072 prescribes policies and directives regarding the planning, acquisition, utilization and management of federal facilities. Since it is not mentioned in the solicitation, GAO would not rule on it.

In law there are deadlines for bringing cases or objecting. All of the complaints about what was or was not in the solicitation should have been made before the submission deadline, but no one was paying attention. No one involved raised the red flag, challenged the selection area in the solicitation, questioned that multiple Presidential Executive Orders  were ignored, or complained that clearly defined governmental goals and principles were ignored before the bids were completed.

Hopefully two good things come out of this debacle.

1. Cities and companies take a proactive position to make sure government solicitations are in line with the current understanding of the requirements at the beginning of the process. GSA could have been challenged at that point and the solicitation requirements may have been changed.

2 These government offices are writing the siting recommendations that will incorporate the larger government sustainability goals that were ignored in this solicitation. They have already had two drafts.

U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. General Services Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

They need to hurry up and implement the Recommendations for Siting Federal Facilities so GSA stops undermining many of the sustainability goals of the government.

Contact the EPA and GSA and tell them both to implement the “Recommendations for Sustainable Siting of Federal Facilities”.

 GSA

Washington D.C.- Administrator of the General Services Administration,

Martha N. Johnson (202) 501-0800  martha.johnson@gsa.gov

Two special email addresses have been established to collect comments about this move

Washington D.C. office kc-epa@gsa.gov

Local office kansasepa@gsa.gov

EPA 

Washington D.C.- Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency

Lisa P. Jackson jackson.lisap@epa.gov

Local EPA Office Phone: (913) 551-7003

Region 7 EPA REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR

Karl Brooks x7303  Brooks.Karl@epa.gov

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3 Responses to “EPA in the Lenexa Corporate Wilderness-update”

  1. Joseph Buddy said

    You obviously know nothing about this project or the Kansas City, Kansas’ public transportation situation. If you do, then you’re just deliberately misleading your readers.

    First of all, the employees LOVE the new location. For 2/3 of them, it is closer to home so their commutes will be significantly reduced. The natural lighting in the interior is amazing. Everyone that has been inside of the facility cannot say enough good about it.
    Second, what little public transit is available in Kansas City will follow the ridership, even to Lenexa. So for the less than 5% of EPA employees that ride the bus, they will still be able to do so.
    Third, downtown KCK is not the same as KCMO. Downtown KCK sucks. It is a hole. You cannot walk anywhere down there unless you want to get shot. Within the past few weeks, the building owner had to replace yet another window that had been shot out.
    Fourth, the employees only get 1/2 hour for lunch and the only eating options would take that long just to get there and back so the employees either bring their lunch or eat at the building Market Place. There are no shops or amenities in KCK for employees to frequent. Downtown Wichita, Kansas offers more employee amenities than downtown KCK does.
    Fifth, the Lenexa location sits on the Northwest corner of an office and technology park that has walking trails all around the south and east side of the building, overlooks a lake with eating areas, is much more sustainable from a LEED vantage point and is just a better environment to work in. No one who has actually been to both locations prefers KCK unless they are guided by blind politics.
    Sixth, Executive Order 12072 is only one of many regulations that guide federal leasing. Preeminent among them is the Competition In Contracting Act (CICA) that protects the taxpayers, not just sustainability Cool-aide drinkers like you. Leasing guidance tells GSA Contracting Officers that, “the anticipated degree of competition within the CBA may be considered in determining whether restricting the delineated area to the CBA meets the requirements of CICA,” and “[w]here it is determined that an acquisition should not be restricted to the CBA, GSA may expand the delineated area in consultation with the requesting agency and local officials. The CBA must be included in such an expanded area.” GSA did this.
    Seventh, the decision was just good business sense. Taxpayers are fed up with government pet projects that waste their hard-earned dollars because of some grand Utopian fallacy about downtown areas being sacred.

    You can continue to disrespect the people that pay the bills and argue your senseless platitudes or you can learn to respect the burden-bearers and be willing to tell the truth. It’s your choice.

    • Janet said

      Joseph,
      I hope you will read TAN’s lead article from July 16, “GSA and EPA Make a Bad Move.” TAN did not argue for Urban America, although losing the EPA facility will be a significant loss for downtown KCK. TAN argued that GSA should have included KCMO in the selection area in order to fulfill the governments commitment to sustainable locations.

      TAN’s objection to the move is that the GSA should have to follow the government’s goals and principles for federal facilities being located in sustainable locations in sustainable communities with good access to transit. You can download the most recent Presidential Executive Order13514 dealing with sustainability issues from that post. When the new “Recommendations for Siting Federal Facilities” are implemented and GSA has to include these concepts into their solicitations, like it currently does with Leed certification, I doubt if this Lenexa location would even qualify to bid under the new circumstances since is so deficient in sustainable location factors.

      Although this location appeals to you since it is close to home, it is creating a significant burden for other employees. At least KCK was centrally located so it was a fair commuting distance for everyone. So many employees have complained about the new location that the EPA is considering expanding its telecommuting program so people don’t have to go way out there so often. EPA is also investigating starting a new vanpool program since the 75 employees currently using this KCATA public transportation program will lose their vans since this location is so far out of the service area.

      You obviously aren’t aware of the difference between KCATA, a full service bus company in Missouri and Wyandotte County, that does not service Lenexa, and Johnson County Transit (JCT), which is mainly a commuter service into downtown KCMO. JCT does not provide viable transit to this Lenexa location so it is wrong to say that riders will continue to take the bus. There is so little transit in Johnson County that it was the main reason the Kansas City region came out 90 of 100 in the Brookings Institute recent report on job accessibility.

      A TAN advocate that currently lives in KCMO has a 5.5 mile return commute and often rides transit will now have a 46 mile round trip and won’t use transit since it is not viable to this location. Another TAN advocate lives north at Lake Wakomis and has always taken transit to work and has chosen to be a one car family. This move requires him purchasing a car. Please don’t represent this move as making everyone so happy. About 15% of the EPA employees use some type of public transportation and they will lose these option at the Lenexa location.

      These large isolated corporate parks dominated by parking lots were popular for a while but companies are increasingly rejecting them in favor of robust, vibrant city centers. Of course that maybe why this location is less expensive. If this were only a corporate move TAN would not have commented. However we hold the federal government to a higher standard and based on the President’s Executive Order, so does he.

      I understand that not everyone shares the goals and aspirations of their employers, after all this is a job, but after you read the latest Presidential Executive Order on sustainability (they started with Nixon) please consider speaking with the EPA Region 7 Sustainable Communities coordinator to better understand the goals, principles and mission of the EPA and the federal government. Then you might understand why so many people find this new location objectionable and see it as undermining the very essence of the work done by the EPA.

      • Joseph Buddy said

        Janet,

        Congress approved the need to seek competition with the assurance that the location – whichever 1 was successful – would remain in Kansas congressional district 3. The deal struck between Bob Dole and Kit Bond in the 1980’s, to keep FAA in Missouri and EPA in Kansas, was always going to prevent GSA from looking for space in Missouri. Besides that, I doubt that vacant space in the Kansas City, Missouri Central Business District exists that would have been both, the right size and appropriate for an Executive Branch agency Regional Headquarters building such as EPA’s.

        Your emphasis on what you consider to be sustainable and on preserving the status quo for employees commutes is indefensible when you consider 1) how many taxpayer dollars will be saved at the new location; 2) the fact that the new location is much more sustainable from a LEED standpoint than the old location (centrality isn’t everything as you would like us to believe); and 3) more employees will be closer to work than will be further away.

        Do you have any idea how many EPA employees only go to the office 2-3 times per week because they telework or work out in 1 of the 4 states they cover? The idea that being in the urban core is somehow morally superior is indefensible garbage. For every one of the employees that you can point to that will increase their commute, I can point to 2 others that will reduce theirs. So your argument is self defeating.

        You also should consider the people paying the bills. Taxpayers don’t give a damn about your version of sustainability; we want fiscal responsibility and that’s what we will be getting at the new location. No one forces you to pay $100 to your hair stylist when you might be satisfied with a $20 trim. You should have the same consideration for us; it is our money after all.

        As I said before, the public transportation will follow the need. It happens all the time in cities all over the country. If the route to downtown Kansas City, Kansas is no longer needed but there is a need for one to Lenexa, the carriers will adjust but only if there is a bona fide need. The van pools will also adjust or be replaced and EPA will increase telecommuting like all other agencies are doing now.

        Finally, it is not that, “so many people that find this new location objectionable,” as you put it; rather it is a very small and ill-educated minority of people who aren’t thinking it through very well (and probably don’t care to). EPA was on board with the move because it was the best alternative to meeting their mission needs and it provided fiscal accountability, unlike the downtown location.

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